Glenda Harty’s message on acceptance, with my thoughts appended

Glenda Harty is a dear friend, a marvelous teacher, and a powerful healer. She owns and operates the Sol Centre in Carmel, Indiana. If you require spiritual guidance or physical/mental/spiritual healing, please have a look at her website and see if she might be the right choice for you.

The other day, Glenda sent out by email a message that greatly resonated with me:

A Key to Peace is found in Acceptance

Accept who you are. Accept everything about who you are. Accept those things that you love about yourself and honor them. Accept those things you dislike about yourself and honor yourself for your honesty.

Accept who you perceive others to be. Accept everything about them. Accepting another simply means you recognize that they are who they are and you have no power to change them.  Release all attachment to another taking your advice or changing their behavior.  As long as you struggle to change someone else, you will not know peace.  Recognize if you are choosing not to know peace by your insistence on trying to change another and honor yourself for your honesty.

Accept all as it is–then ask your Self this question:

Is there a way I can change myself or my behavior to bring more peace and light to my world?

If yes, accept the truth of what you must do to accomplish this change. Do you choose to take the necessary action?  Whether or not you choose to take the necessary action at this time, accept your decision with clarity, responsibility, and love for yourself.

If no, accept and honor the opportunity to discover and explore any lessons brought forth in learning to accept all as it is.

Glenda did not come up with the idea of complete acceptance, but she has expressed it better than I have seen anywhere else, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Toward the beginning of 2009, I had what I called my “Acceptance Revolution.” In 2008 I went through one of the most difficult things I have yet experienced in my life: finding the person of my dreams and having her leave. I tried my best to “get over” this relationship, but I found myself unable to do so. Thoughts and feelings are different than behaviors: we can push them outside of consciousness a bit, but they never go very far and often return without an invitation. In my little revolution, I found it easier just to accept that I had no real control over my thoughts and feelings about her. If I still loved her, I still loved her. I accepted it. I also made the effort to accept everything about myself and my life. Doing so made life much easier.

In trying to accept everything about everyone, we run into a core conflict of human existence: we are social animals, and, except for the rare hermit living completely without assistance from others, our existence and happiness is dependent on our cooperating with others.

It’s also a fact of life that we must act upon others. Bosses motivate. Salespersons sell. Parents reward and punish. We negotiate and argue with each other. We are constantly trying to Win Friends and Influence People.

How do we square the necessity of accepting others with the necessity of acting upon others?

First, I don’t think that we can completely square the two. I believe that the evolution of the individual and the evolution of the human species requires different, more advanced behavior than that in which we have heretofore engaged. We need to accept more and influence less.

Adjusting the ratio of acceptance to influence, however, does not obviate the need to influence others. What we need to do is make our influencing based as much as possible on love, compassion, and acceptance of people for who they are.

In the above-mentioned book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggests that one effective way to “win other people to your way of thinking” is to “let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.”

This may be psychologically effective, but the question remains whether that “idea” is beneficial to the person and in concordance with his or her being. If we are loving, compassionate, and accepting, we will not try to “win over” a person. Instead, we will offer something of true value and see if he or she accepts what we have to offer. This is the type of influence that is fair and untainted.

I will be painting too simplistic a picture if I say that this is the only type of influence in which we can ever engage. Life is messy and dangerous, people don’t always desire the right things, and people’s needs conflict. For example, if we know that someone is going to commit suicide, we don’t just let them do it. If we see that someone is about to hurt someone else, we try to prevent it.

It is working through the tough cases in life that allows us to grow spiritually. As Jesus said in Luke 6: 32-33,

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.

Likewise, it is easy to be loving, compassionate, and accepting to people who are like us and have similar needs. It is difficult to be loving, compassionate, and accepting to people who are different from us and have different needs. It is especially difficult to do right by people who seem not to value love, compassion, and acceptance! Yet it is how we behave in such cases that is a big part of our advancing spiritually.

There is no neat formula for how to be loving, compassionate, and accepting in life. And that’s just another fact that we need to accept.

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Want Iran not to have nukes? Then get rid of our own.

To understand my basic philosophy that underpins what I’m about to say, please read my post on love of neighbor.

Here’s something more:

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

–Mark 9:35

We Americans commonly think of ourselves as being first in the world. We are the sole remaining “superpower.” We are the richest country. Our workers are the most productive. God loves us the most. And so on. Regardless of our distorted self-image, America does possess great power, prestige, and wealth. Other countries look up to us as the big kid on the block.

For the past several decades, however, we have not been acting enough out of love of neighbor; instead, our motivation has been love of self. We have not been the servant of all; instead, we have expected service and obedience. We have not set the best example possible for other countries. Whether we are better or worse than they is irrelevant. We have not loved enough; we have not served enough. We have not lived up to our potential.

We may find countries like Iran distasteful in many ways; we may find them to be our juniors in wealth, achievement, and sophistication. If we practiced love of neighbor, however, we would deal with such countries by serving as an impeccable example of beneficence and rectitude. If we were good and right, however, we would not possess nuclear weapons.

There is no moral way to possess, much less use, a weapon that could annihilate a city. To kill and destroy on that scale is  an abomination; it’s unthinkable. Yet we possess thousands of nuclear-tipped missiles and even keep them targeted on cities, ready to go should the president so order.

Merely by possessing such weapons, we create fear in the world. If I may switch from Western spirituality to Eastern, that’s bad karma. One cannot create fear without paying a price. Moreover, since other countries look up to us as the big kid on the block, if we have nukes, then they want them, too.

I’m not a pacifist. Just as there needs to be a police force to take care of people doing bad stuff on a small scale, there needs to be a military–not necessarily our military–to stop people from doing bad stuff on a larger scale. But nukes can’t be used to do that; they can only be used to threaten other countries with complete destruction.

Oh, I know how a certain breed of right-winger feels about the matter. We’ve got to be tough! Have a huge military, carry a big stick–we’ve got to be number one! And God is on our side, so it’s all going to work out. If we don’t do that, the colors of the flag will run, and we’ll be–you know, like France or Sweden or something–not number one!

Again, I must return to the Bible quote. If we want to be a true number one, we must be last. We must serve. And just about the greatest thing we could do for the world right now is give up our nukes. That’s right. Dismantle them and use the fissile material in nuclear reactors (I’m not saying nuclear power is great, but we’ve got the plants…).

What would happen if we did this? Would Russia launch a strike against us and take us over? No. Would any other country start a war with us now if eschewed the awesome might of nuclear arms? No.

Would terrorists be more likely to attack us? No, less likely. It’s probably the single greatest thing we could do to prevent a “suitcase nuke” attack on American soil. If there’s anything the terrorists respect, it’s symbols, and it would be a big symbolic mismatch to set off the first terrorist nuke in a country without nuclear weapons (not that I wish this to happen to any country in our place).

Would we lose respect in the world? No, we would gain respect. Would our enemies fear our military less? No, inasmuch as they know we can’t use nukes anyway.

What would happen, however, is that the prestige of becoming a nuclear power would go down the toilet. If the hipster US doesn’t need nukes, then who really does?

At the end of the day, our species needs to evolve to the point where countries are not going to attack each other and kill large numbers of people in the process. The planet won’t permit that any more. We must choose now, collectively, as a species, to embrace love of neighbor as our MO. If the United States is really what it thinks it is–what it would like to be–then it should lead by giving up its dangerous toys.

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Don’t lay a flower on this poet’s grave
or look within these words to know my face:
to who is gone, such kindness is a sieve
that cannot leave your hands the finer trace.


Don’t meditate upon this day alone
with remnants gathered from the Internet,
pretending you had cheered the way, or shown,
before it led to grass beneath your feet.


Closer to you is one who needs your care
far more than any revenant of verse,
who lacks your touch and thus the strength to bear
the mighty length of art in life so terse.


With tears like mine, be certain he shall wait
for love like yours, not fame beyond the gate.

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"SANKHARA-DUKKHA"–a poem by Matt Rouge





Among the things you know about my soul
is that I’d always sought its qualities,
and when at last I won, our ecstasies
were only matched in depth by losing all.


Searching again, I gained each part in full,
but not within one entity to choose:
one had our tones, another one our hues,
and one the scents that breach the trembling wall.


The patience that you share has earned its mate,
and everything we are has well combined
with love, the thing for which I couldn’t wait.


Yet, through this very process, I have found
not you, not me, not us, but only thought
partitioned by the fragrance, light, and sound.

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Love means not testing the other person

More and more it strikes me that life is a series of tests. Now, when something happens to me or a person does something to me I don’t like, I ask myself, “How am I being tested here? What is the wise and loving way to respond?”

It has therefore also occurred to me that, in a committed relationship, one of the major things to which the two persons are committing is to not testing each other. Rather, they are committing to facing life’s tests together as a team.

There is no doubt that, once two people thus commit, the world will sorely test the mettle of the commitment itself. It will attempt constantly to turn one person against the other through various means. They who can remain adamant in their commitment, however, and retain their dedication to the team, can take on the tests that come at them as individuals and as a pair with much greater strength and stamina than they could without such unity.

One of the greatest ways to show one’s love for a person is to refuse to be party to the world’s testing of that person.

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I love factories

I love factories. I love warehouses. I love getting my hands on machines and learning how they work.

I worked in the semiconductor industry in Japan from October 2002 to May 2004. My job was marketing, but for the first six months I trained in the applications lab, learning to run the dicing saws that cut wafers into chips and the grinders and polishers that gave wafers the right size and texture. I even learned how to use the laser dicing saw.

The machines were beautiful. The dicing saws had spindles that could revolve at 60,000 rpm–1,000 revolutions in just one second! It is difficult to imagine, even when you are directly staring at the velocity.

We did experiments on various workpieces–semiconductor products of all types–that really helped companies create the products they needed to create. Doing so gave me a considerable feeling of accomplishment.

When I worked for a trading company in Japan, I also spent many hours in warehouses, packing products. For example, one time we bought 1950s dimes and packed them with nostalgic Coca-Cola-themed banks we were selling on TV.

I have had my dream job of writer for the past five years, but my experiences of working with gembutsu (real things) in gemba (real places) has had a big impression on me. In doing my writing work, I still love visiting client’s workplaces and learning about their operations in detail. One of my new clients is a dry cleaning company, and it has been fascinating to learn how dry cleaning works, too.

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We don't give medical care to people because they deserve it

We don’t give medical care to people because they deserve it. We don’t give it to them because they earn it. This is a simple–and important–concept that I’ve yet to hear clearly expressed in the ongoing medical care debate.

This isn’t merely my ideal; this is how the United States actually behaves. Proving the point is simple enough: we provide medical care–free of charge–to everyone in prison. To robbers, murderers, serial killers. Even people on death row that we’re going to kill anyway.

Prisoners don’t just get medical care for life-threatening illnesses. I personally know a psychiatrist who works in an Indiana maximum security prison. If prisoners require psychological treatment, including medication, they get it. We manage to provide health care to convicted criminals–yet somehow we can’t do the same for ordinary hard-working people. A travesty.

The wingnuts currently opposing health care don’t understand what a complete joke this situation makes the US seem to the rest of the industrialized world. Then again, they most likely don’t care. These are the people, who, completely ignorant of France, make fun of France. These are the people willfully wallowing in Sarah Palin-style ignorance. These are the people whose very identity is based on a childish and anachronistic right wing brand. Like our high imprisonment rate and use of the death penalty, the lack of access to medical care is another factor that separates us from the modern states we should like to consider our equals, if not our inferiors.

If we fail to implement health care at this juncture, the United States will continue its downward slide toward pariah-statehood. More and more, it will be a country that brays of freedom and equality while failing to assure the basic necessities that make these ideals possible.

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The key to understanding the self-branding of the right: "American Honky-Tonk Bar Association"

I don’t have a problem with genuine conservatives and libertarians, although I disagree with them quite a bit. Mitch Daniels and Richard Lugar are two Republican politicians in Indiana I respect (and I voted for Mitch in the past election). I’m disgusted, however, with the right-wingers whose actions are not based on a rational assessment of what is good for the United Stated but instead on a brand.

What do I mean by “brand” in this case?

I was watching the 1967 movie The President’s Analyst recently (definitely in my Top 10 of all time), and William Daniels (probably most famous as the voice of K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider) plays a good, patriotic, gun-toting, suburban liberal who has this to say about his right-wing neighbors (I’m writing this from memory, but it’s close):

…Big American flag up all the time. You know, real fascists.

It’s common knowledge that there was a conservative movement in 1967, but the fact that the same brand was around (and recognized as such) back then was surprising to me.

The best, most succinct explication of this brand in popular culture is perhaps the song American Honky-Tonk Bar Association (lyrics), a hit song on the 1993 Garth Brooks album In Pieces (written by Kennedy/Rushing, according to This song doesn’t just hint at a political perspective; it’s a political manifesto in country song form!

Despite my political disagreement with the song, I love it, and it’s on my iPod. It’s just a great, twangy country song, and I can understand where the lyrics are coming from. I was a self-identifying conservative in 1994, when I voted Republican in the mid-term election that gave control of both houses to the GOP. I continued to so self-identify until the 2000 election, when I supported Al Gore but did not vote (I missed the 1992, 1996, and 2000 elections from being in Japan; it really isn’t easy to absentee vote when you live abroad). I voted for Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008.

There are a few reasons why I considered myself conservative until 2000:

  • I was raised in a self-identifying Republican household.
  • As a kid, I was told Reagan was good, he seemed good, and in fact I still think that, overall, he was good and the right president for the times (many, many caveats go along with this statement!).
  • Contrariwise, I really hated Bill Clinton. He always struck me as a smug, sleazy jackass, and this opinion hasn’t changed much over time (I now think he was an able administrator and his politics were mostly in the right direction).
  • I liked the conservative message of small government. I like order. Small and orderly sounds good. The “Contract with America” sounded good.
  • I was young and ignorant of many things.

I point out these things to emphasize that I despise the current right-wing brand not because I have always opposed conservatism or was raised a Democrat or a liberal.

A few lines from the song:

When Uncle Sam dips in your pocket
For most things you don’t mind
But when your dollar goes to all of those
Standing in a welfare line

Small government, personal responsibility, etc. Many would say that the racist dog whistle is in here, too.

It represents the hardhat
Gunrack, achin’-back
Over-taxed, flag-wavin’, fun-lovin’ crowd
Their heart is in the music
And they love to play it loud

The rest is all here. These are the Sarah Palin lovers, the real red-blooded Americans. Not the East Coast “elites.” By implication, the members of the Association are white and nominally Christian.

The brand is the same today as it was in 1993. The only problem is that the world is not the same.

  • In 1993, we’d just had two Republican presidents with genuine accomplishments: Reagan and Bush the Elder. In 2009, the last Republican president is widely acknowledged to be one of the worst in the country’s history, and his many failures were the direct effects of his right-wing worldview.
  • In 1994, the idea of small government still seemed plausible. The Contract with America, however, ended up a disaster, and G.W. Bush and his Republican Congress only increased the size of government. Finally, in 2008 and 2009, the government has had to step in and save the private sector from itself. The “small government” meme is now for suckers only.
  • The most recent Republican candidates–McCain and Palin–were freaks. McCain a freak by choice, Palin by inclination, it would seem.

In other words, you have a brand without a product. Lacking ideas and credibility, composed only of words and images itself, all the right can do to the left is expectorate negative words and images and hope they stick: calling Obama a Nazi, appealing to patriotic images at “tea parties,” shouting down Democrats with slogans at “town hells,” and painting a picture of national health care that includes “Death Panels.”

A brand without a product, however, can’t last. The American right, at least in its current form, is evaporating. Maybe intelligent Republicans like Mitch Daniels can regroup, rebrand, and rebuild before it’s too late.

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My response to Iain Scott's "Top 50 Greatest Films" post

Here is Scott’s original post. Here is Andrew O’Hehir’s post on Salon, where I originally learned about Scott’s post. Regarding Scott’s methodology, O’Hehir says,

Iain Stott of the One-Line Review just completed his 2009 poll of 187 critics, filmmakers, bloggers and other cinephiles, and the results make fascinating reading.

O’Hehir goes on to speculate that critical opinion has ossified: few new movies are getting added to best/top lists. I was just talking about this topic with my best friend recently. O’Hehir cites The Shawshank Redemption (which I despise) as a movie that’s quite beloved yet never makes critics’ lists, and my friend wondered whether The Princess Bride would ever get the cred it deserves.

My opinion as to what films are great doesn’t match up with these critics opinions very well at all. Here I have divided up the movies based on whether I’ve seen them and what I think of them, adding comments here and there as the spirit moves me.

Would make my own top 50

7. Taxi Driver (1976) Martin Scorsese
22. 8½ (1963) Federico Fellini
42. The Apartment (1960) Billy Wilder
44. Ikiru (1952) Akira Kurosawa
45. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Frank Capra
47. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Victor Fleming

Like to some degree

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick
5. Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz
6. The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed
23. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) David Lean
25. Apocalypse Now (1979) Francis Ford Coppola
39. Raging Bull (1980) Martin Scorsese

Dislike to some degree

1. Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles

This is not a movie I find good in any dimension, and I’ve never understood its critical appeal.

2. Vertigo (1958) Alfred Hitchcock

The above-mentioned best friend and I have always held that Hitchcock is a horrible director. No, not just overrated–horrible. If film historians insist that he was an innovator, I see no reason to dispute that opinion, but as a viewer I feel that there is not a single movie of his that holds up today. The pacing is leaden, the scripts are boring, the performances he elicits from actors I usually enjoy are lifeless. In truth, what movies by Hitchcock do critics really find enjoyable, exciting, thrilling? If ossified critical opinion is anywhere to be found, it is in regard to Hitchcock’s oeuvre.

4. The Godfather (1972) Francis Ford Coppola
16. Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanski

8. Seven Samurai (1954) Akira Kurosawa

If you can understand Japanese, a lot of the mystique of Kurosawa’s movies disappears. A lot of the dialog is really exaggerated and hackneyed. Seven Samurai is extremely long and boring. Kurosawa did make some great movies, however: Yojimbo would be in my Top 10, and Ikiru is in my top 50, which would probably include about 6 or 7 Japanese movies in toto.

9. Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock

10. Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Stanley Kubrick

Tried to watch this not recently. It has some good stuff in it, but the pacing is truly awful, and, overall, it just doesn’t work.

13. Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
14. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
17. Sunset Boulevard (1950) Billy Wilder

20. Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino

I think Tarantino is better than any director in history at creating a feeling of menace, of absolute terror, and he does so in this movie–several times. That said, his movies are ugly, violent, vulgar, and–what I can’t forgive–ignorant. He never seems to be presenting things he knows from experience but instead a bunch of junk he’s learned second-hand. I always feel that I am being lectured by a child.

26. City Lights (1931) Charles Chaplin
28. Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen
29. Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles
31. Blade Runner (1982) Ridley Scott
32. M (1931) Fritz Lang

33. The General (1927) Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton

One thing about these critics lists–they often include stuff by my favorite directors but just not their best work. I love Keaton, but this movie is boring beyond belief.

34. Some Like It Hot (1959) Billy Wilder
37. Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCarey
38. Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder
41. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Stanley Kubrick
46. Rashomon (1950) Akira Kurosawa
48. Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee

Have not seen

11. The Godfather: Part II (1974) Francis Ford Coppola
12. The Searchers (1956) John Ford
15. Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman
18. Sunrise (1927) F.W. Murnau
19. Tokyo Story (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
21. La Règle du Jeu (1939) Jean Renoir
24. The Night of the Hunter (1955) Charles Laughton
27. Bicycle Thieves (1948) Vittorio De Sica
30. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Carl Theodor Dreyer
35. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Sergio Leone
36. The Four Hundred Blows (1959) François Truffaut
40. All About Eve (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
43. La Grande Illusion (1937) Jean Renoir
49. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) Sergio Leone
50. L’Avventura (1960) Michelangelo Antonioni

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Movie review: "Observe and Report" shows us how hard it is to love ourselves


Observe and Report on IMDb
Observe and Report on Metacritic
Observe and Report on Rotten Tomatoes

Matt Rouge’s score: 4.5/5.0

Pros. Very strong performances by all. Engaging story. Dead-on satire of many familiar things. Interesting characters.

Cons. At 88 minutes, the movie feels a little short. The characters are interesting enough to support several more scenes adding to the story and laugh count. Some of the dialog and character behaviors are over the top even for the movie’s wild, farcical style.

Observe and Report is the story of Ronnie Barnhardt, a bipolar mall cop who is trying to catch a flasher and creating a considerable mess in the process. It’s a dark comedy full of expletives, nudity, and material that may shock and offend. The reviews among both pro and amateur critics are definitely mixed, but I found it to be a hilarious movie with an important message for our times. I highly recommend it.

I think this message is striking a deep chord in people, whether their view of the film is positive or negative, but I have yet to see it articulated in any review. It may be possible that even the film’s creators were not cognizant of it but instead worked with it on a gut level. Once one sees the message, however, it is striking and obvious. Here it is:

In today’s society, we feel miserable and invalidated until one of our dreams comes true in a way that everyone must recognize.

Ronnie craves validation; one of his chief characteristics is insecurity. He wants to become a real cop and dreams, most nights, of saving the world from a black cloud of evil and earning the approbation of the masses.

In some dimensions, Ronnie is hyper-competent. He defeats six crackheads single-handedly. He takes on a troop of cops, losing but doing palpable damage. Ronnie passes every test to get into the police academy save one: the psych evaluation. At the same time, Ronnie is a complete, unhinged idiot. He fails to detect who has been burglarizing the mall at night, instead suggesting suspects on the basis of race. When it comes to relationships of any type, Ronnie is completely clueless.

Ronnie is a complex character, combining both admirable traits and despicable. Persons’ reactions to him are likewise complex: his boss, despite misgivings, supports him, and the cute girl working at the cinnamon bun shop finds him admirable and attractive.

Now we come to our own discomfort in watching Ronnie. We are in the same boat. We don’t know what to think of ourselves.

In our own minds, we are fighting the good fight, but we see others on the opposite side who are equally confident. Or perhaps equally in doubt. We waver. We worry that we are like Ronnie, clueless and not aware of our own cluelessness. We consider how other people think about us, hoping to find validation in their opinions, but we sense–we know–that opinions are divided. Some people love us; others hate us. Some people at work admire us; others mock us. Some praise; others trash. Our friends and family love us, mostly, but we are aware of their bias. (In Observe and Report there is a wonderful scene in which Ronnie’s mom deconstructs the very notion of a parent’s validation, observing that her affirmation of her son’s dreams is merely what a parent is expected to say.)

We long to accomplish one great thing (e.g., becoming a police officer, nabbing a sex offender) that once and for all will prove that we deserve the respect of others and ourselves, but satisfaction is elusive.

I remember job hunting in Chicago in 1994, and I sat next to a guy on the South Shore, and we had a very good conversation. “The thing about Americans,” he said, “is that no one’s satisfied until they become a doctor or a lawyer–something like that.” He was right then, and he’s even more right now. In 2009, as in 1994, it’s hard to love ourselves as we are, and Observe and Report invites us to face that difficulty as few movies ever have.

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